With readily available vaccinations and ever-changing travel restrictions, the Ole Miss Study Abroad Office is planning on sending students abroad for both the fall 2021 and spring 2022 semesters. The program currently has 30 participants abroad, which is 10 less than its pre-pandemic fall average.
This past summer alone, the UM Study Abroad office sent 87 students to countries such as Spain, Italy, France, Morocco, Jordan, Korea, Iceland, the United Kingdom and Madagascar. According to an email from study abroad director, Blair McElroy, the office also “facilitated and offered virtual global experiences with partners in Taiwan and mainland China.”
Most countries require certain immunizations to keep local communities and their population safe, such as yellow fever. However, each country’s COVID-19 vaccination policy is quite different and its visa processes are contrasting as well. For example, Japan halted its visa processing, regardless of the reason for travel.
The visa process hasn’t been the easiest for current Croft Institute seniors, Calley Overton and Noah Hubbard. The pair planned on attending a program in Uruguay, which started in late July, but switched routes to Spain after the Uruguayan government couldn’t promise in-person classes. Although the Croft Institute has waived the study abroad requirement for students, Overton and Hubbard were both hoping to study overseas for their senior year.
For Hubbard, obtaining a visa for Spain has been challenging and the process isn’t working in his favor. The International Studies, Spanish and Accounting triple major applied for a visa for the third time recently, and has a flight booked just in case.
“(The Spanish Consulate) switched to where you have to apply for a mail-in visa, because I’m over 90 days, which I thought was going to be better, but it’s actually been worse,” Hubbard said. “My last chance to study abroad is this fall, because I’m not going to go in the spring because of my thesis. This is my last shot.”
As for Overton, the International Studies and Spanish double major pulled out of the race for a visa early this summer because of the many trials she faced, such as waiting for acceptance letters, seeing the rise of the Delta variant and losing options for housing in Oxford.
“I was worried if I made the right decision at the time, but ultimately, I did,” Overton said. “I was able to get things done in time to be able to have a smooth transition back to Oxford.”
Despite the obstacles these two students faced, Ole Miss students are still able to apply for certain programs. The Study Abroad office provides a Google Sheet where potential applicants can check on visa availability, flights and program status.
In regards to the COVID-19 vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control says that international travelers should be fully vaccinated to protect against spreading the illness.
“Many people around the world would be grateful for access to free, readily available COVID-19 vaccines like we have in the United States,” McElroy said. “It would be difficult and inequitable to require a vaccine that is inaccessible to many people, so many countries may require travelers to quarantine, provide a negative COVID-19 test or show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or a combination of those items.”
In addition to the varying COVID-19 policies, some countries may have an app for immunization records that allows the person to enter public facilities such as night clubs or restaurants.
“I cannot make predictions unfortunately,” McElroy said in regards to what will happen next. “I can say that we continue to have students interested in study abroad programs through UM, and we will guide them to make an informed decision about their destination and program choice.”